As with every year, there are players who underachieve, regardless of sport or season. It may be caused by an undisclosed injury, contract negotiations or home life, but for the fantasy world, a bounce-back season is ever important. Predicting these comebacks are even more important to winning our leagues (and maybe looking like a resident genius). So, let's look at a few players who may come at a discount due to last year’s sad seasons.
Boone Jenner (C/LW, Columbus Blue Jackets): After potting 30 goals the season prior, I was expecting Boone to make the next jump in his young career as a 40-goal man. It did not happen. In fact, after a 30-goal, 49-point season, Jenner dropped 15 points as the Blue Jackets made the rest of the league take notice of the power brewing in central Ohio. I’m fully expecting Jenner to regain that scoring touch next season, as he started to heat up again in the second half. Jenner is also a Restricted Free Agent at season's end, and a stellar performance this year will result in a nice raise for the former Oshawa General.
Alex Galchenyuk (C/LW/RW, Montreal Canadiens): This regression was caused by games missed, as Alex would have probably surpassed the totals from the prior season had he played a full complement of games. Just 23 when the season began, Galchenyuk will break the 60-point plateau this year as the Habs make a push for a Stanley Cup. Montreal has made the right off-season moves to ensure a deep playoff run, and Galchenyuk will be in the center of it all, literally. Is a return to 30 goals possible for Alex? Yes, but we drafters would rather see another 82-game season first.
Corey Perry (RW, Anaheim Ducks): In a very un-Corey Perry season last year, this sniper failed to reach the 20-goal mark. He will have plenty of slack to pick up this season with Ryan Kesler on the shelf for months after his hip surgery. Perry is in an excellent lineup, and will find the net again. He took an identical 215 shots as the year before, but his shooting percentage dropped from 15.8% to 8.8% last season. With a career shooting percentage of 13.2%, you can bet on Perry getting closer to 30 goals this season once again.
Zack Parise (LW, Minnesota Wild): When the Wild signed Parise and Ryan Suter on the same day, to the same whooping contracts, little did they know only one of them would be exceeding his deal and playing like a Norris Trophy candidate. Parise has been on a statistical downward trajectory since landing in the Twin Cities, never scoring more than 62 points over his five seasons in Minnesota, after 94 and 82-point seasons before he left New Jersey. Dropping 62, 53, and 42-point seasons consecutively, the Wild need Parise to start playing comensurate with his pay. I know a discount on Zack can be had on draft day, and I’m projecting a return to the mid 60-point range with another 30-goal campaign, so do not miss out on the sporadic one.
We can always talk hockey @PolkaPat and be sure to read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Fantasy Sports.
The NHL free agency period isn’t a week old yet and the winners and losers are all but decided. There are a few decent mid-level players available on the market, but the trophies have been brought into the fold already, so let's take a look at a few players from each group and discuss the fantasy impact of these moves.
Winner: Dallas Stars
Dallas has addressed a few areas that the team sorely needed to fill. Even before free agency, the Stars traded for and then signed netminder Ben Bishop, and he fills the glaring holes in net from its previous residents. At the beginning of free agency, the Stars went out and added former Senators defenseman Marc Methot, whose stock rose greatly this past postseason partially due to his shut-down play and partially to him riding the coattails of all world teammate Erik Karlsson. Either way, both player and team benefit from the move, as Dallas was putrid in their own end last season, and dropped from 109 points to 69 points in the process.
Along with adding Methot, Dallas added 30-year-old bulldozer Martin Hanzel (3-year, $14.25 million) from the Minnesota Wild, and his presence will certainly add to an offense that was dying for some secondary scoring. If that was not enough, the Stars signed former Montreal Canadian Alexander Radulov for five years at $5.75 million per season. Dallas now boasts five high-end forwards with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Martin Hanzel and Radulov.
All this new-found firepower and a shutdown defender was certainly the all chips in move Dallas fans were waiting on, and in a weaker Western Conference, Dallas is one of the first names back on our tongues again as potential Campbell Conference winners.
Winner: Calgary Flames
With everyone glaring at the trophies piling up in Connor McDavid’s locker, Calgary was quietly going about their business on July 1, and along with adding Arizona goaltender Mike Smith to take over the reins and right the ship, Calgary re-signed defenseman Michael Stone. The icing on the Calgary cake was the swap for Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, albeit at a steep price, a first rounder and two second rounders. Calgary now boasts one of the deepest and most talented corps of rearguards in the NHL with Hamonic, Stone, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie. Combine this excellent defense with the up and coming high flying forwards, and Calgary is right in the mix for the playoffs again for seasons to come.
Loser: Pittsburgh Penguins
Sorry Pens fans, it cannot all be puppy dogs and unicorns after going back-to-back. The losses that have been dealt to the Pens lineup over the past two weeks will make it very tough sledding for a three-peat in the City of Champions. Losing longtime and three-time Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas in the Expansion Draft was just the opening salvo. Then on July 1, the Penguins lost Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey all to free agency. Then replacing Flower as Matt Murray's primary back-up with the walking goal giver Antti Niemi only means to me that Murray will play 70 games this upcoming season. Pittsburgh wasn’t the only loser out of the East giants though.
Loser: Washington Capitals
You just cannot lose three of your top six playoff defensemen and not feel that punch in the stomach. Sure, the Caps inked T.J. Oshie and have his fine scoring touch back in the mix, but they let aging veteran Justin Williams return to Carolina, which I really like for the Canes. But back to the losses on the back end. Kevin Shattenkirk, who was considered the crowned jewel of the free-agent class, is now a New York Ranger, and like most, I figured as much. Then letting Karl Alzer, the best shut-down defender in the free agent class, leave for Montreal hurts plenty, and losing young Nate Schmidt to Vegas in the expansion draft made zero sense to me. It’s time to nip these No Movement Clauses in the bud and deal the players you’d rather get rid of.
Washington wasn’t getting past the second round with the group they had, so maybe Caps management is taking a new approach in hurdling the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs.
There are still some mid-management players available for the right price in free-agency. But most have seen too many winters or their production has dwindled to the point where it’s more cost efficient for teams to play their entry level contract kids instead so that they can gain the experience needed to succeed at the pro level.
You can always reach me @PolkaPat to talk hockey, and read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.
Last night, the NHL had its Expansion Draft for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, and along with picking one player from each of the 30 other NHL teams, the Golden Knights pulled off 10 trades in the process. Las Vegas already had the sixth overall pick in Friday’s NHL Entry Draft, but they also acquired the 13th and 15th overall picks. But let’s cover who the Golden Knights added while looking at the potential fantasy impact of these players.
James Neal (Nashville)
Jonathan Marchessault (Florida)
David Perron (St. Louis)
Erik Haula (Minnesota)
Reilly Smith (Florida) via trade
These five forwards will be the men up front putting pucks in opposing nets, and will also play a lot of tightly contested defensive games simply due to the fact Las Vegas does not have a legit number one center. James Neal isn’t in his prime anymore, but he does have an 80-point season under his wing and will be relied on every night to be the number one goal scorer. He will again secure top line minutes at even strength and the power play. Marchessault is coming off his best season as a professional with a 30-goal, 51-point campaign in Florida, and he filled in admirably for injured stud forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau during their extensive absences. Las Vegas may be lacking a number one center, but with three first round picks, a stocking of the shelves will be happening tonight. This year’s entry draft may not contain Auston Matthews or Patrik Laine caliber players, but there are about 12-15 Matthew Tkchuck skill leveled players and it’s going to be great to look back ten years from now and see how these young men have panned out. If Vegas really wants a number one center, remember that the Islanders' John Tavares is a UFA at season's end and is just turning 27 this season.
Colin Miller (Boston)
Nate Schmidt (Washington)
Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles)
Alexei Emelin (Montreal)
Lucas Sbisa (Vancouver)
Shea Theodore (Anaheim) via trade
Jason Garrison (Tampa Bay)
Jon Merrill (New Jersey)
As with the forward group, nobody here is a stand-out Norris Trophy winning defenseman. But all eight of these players are good and young, minus Garrison and Emelin who are going to be 31 when the season opens. I’m positive I also used each one of these skaters as a cheap DFS option last season on DraftKings while I was loading up on stud forwards. Under Head Coach Gerard Gallant, this Vegas team will be a tight checking team that will win or lose many games 2-1 and 3-2. There are also a few real nice defensemen out on the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzer. Merrill was a shutdown stud at the University of Michigan, Nate Schmidt has piled up plenty of quality minutes each of the past two seasons as the Washington Capitals' regular defensemen were dinged up for long spells like John Carlson was two seasons back and Brooks Orpik was this past season. Getting Shea Theodore in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks was such a brilliant move by GM George McPhee. Theo was just the odd man out in a corps of stud rearguards in SoCal and will become the Golden Knights' future number one defenseman.
Marc Andre-Fleury (Pittsburgh)
Calvin Pickard (Colorado)
With the three-time Stanley Cup netminder running the shop in Fleury, Vegas can really focus on playing tight defense around him, while knowing that rushing an extra defenseman into an offensive rush will not kill them all that often with Flower in the pipes. Calvin Pickard played very solid for a very bad team, and Colorado leaving him unprotected was the best thing that could have happened to him. In 50 games played this past season, Pick posted a 2.98 GAA (Goals Against Average), and a .904 Save Percentage for the league’s worst team. Learning from one of the better netminders over the past ten seasons will be a dream for Pick.
There were of course other players picked by Las Vegas, but these will be the legit fantasy options, along with the three first rounders Vegas will take tonight. I do not want to jinx the Red Wings though and have Vegas snatch either of the two I love for Detroit, Cody Glass and Tri-City Americans (Western Hockey League) 6’6” 220-pound center Michal Rasmussen.
Las Vegas will not win a playoff spot next season, but I’d bet my entire 401k that the Golden Knights will finish higher than Vancouver, Colorado and Arizona.
Let’s talk hockey @PolkaPat and be sure to read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.
Saturday morning is the literal meaning of “Christmas In July” in the NHL with July 1 being the day that Unrestricted Free Agents can sign elsewhere or with their former teams, and hopefully jump a notch or two in the income tax brackets. T.J. Oshie recently signed an eight-year extension worth $46 million with the Washington Capitals, and Kris Russell re-signed with the Edmonton Oilers on a four-year, $16 million deal. So, with a few of the larger fish now off the market and the NHL Entry Draft over, the rest of the pending UFA’s will be covered here, and then we can start a team-by-team breakdown looking at the upcoming season.
Justin Williams (UFA - Washington Capitals): The three-time Cup winner was brought into Washington to be one of the key pieces in winning their first Cup. Well, neither has happened yet, and Williams is getting a little long in the tooth. Yet the 24 goals he scored this past regular season is the most he’s had since 2006 when he scored 33 goals. Someone will pay to add his experience to their roster, but will it be the Caps again?
Trevor Daley (UFA - Pittsburgh Penguins): Along with teammate Nick Bonino, Daley will test the open market and then allow the Penguins to match or make their offer. Daley may be older, but he has the Stanley Cup winning pedigree and that goes a long way in negotiations. Daley and Ron Hainsey filled in admirably for the once again injured Kris Letang, and Trevor will find employment soon.
Nick Bonino (UFA - Pittsburgh Penguins): Bonino was huge in the Pens' back-to-back Cup winning party in Pittsburgh and will allow them to match offers made.
Michael Stone (UFA - Arizona Coyotes): Not the most swooning name you think of when it comes to free agent defensemen, but this big bodied rearguard can block shots and eat minutes for any team looking to add him. Stone earned $4 million last season and can expect to earn similar numbers this upcoming season regardless of where he plays.
Ryan Miller (UFA - Vancouver Canucks): Coming off a three-year, $18 million deal, Miller is said to be asking for a one-year contract to stay in Vancouver. At 36 years old, Miller is watching the sun set on a very stellar NHL career and should be brought back to the Canucks to also guide Jacob Markstrom down the path of goalie success.
Brian Elliott (UFA - Calgary Flames): After earning rave reviews following his last season in St. Louis, Elliott joined the Flames, and he was often benched in favor of backup Chad Johnson. Elliott will still see plenty of suitors in the upcoming weeks, but with much smaller numbers on those contracts. Winnipeg needs a goalie while Connor Hellebuyck matures, but is Elliott the answer?
We can talk hockey anytime @PolkaPat and you can read more of my thoughts at Fighting Chance Sports.